Monday, August 24, 2009

The Iasi-Chisinau Offensive

The Soviet troops who had occupied Basarabia in 1940 were quickly pushed out when Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of the Soviet Union) was launched in 1941 by combined German and Romanian forces. This offensive pushed on deep into Russia, resulting in the sieges of Leningrad, Stalingrad and Moscow. It was eventually turned back when Soviet forces managed to punch a hole in the Axis front line, resulting in the encirclement and collapse of the German armies besieging Stalingrad.

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the beginning (24 Aug 1944) of the Iasi-Chisinau offensive. This was essentially the recapturing of Basarabia by Soviet forces, who, having relieved the siege of Stalingrad, pushed the combined German-Romanian forces back across the Ukraine to the river Nistru, and then on into Basarabia itself.

The Iasi-Chisinau offensive was seen in the Soviet Union and is still seen by the Moldovan Communist party as a 'victory over fascism' which marked the 'liberation of the Moldovan people from occupation'.

Now I'm no fan of fascism, and I do recognise the heroic role of the Soviet Union in defeating Hitler, but nonetheless the statements above are problematic:

1. A day prior to the start of the offensive, the Romanian fascist leader Antonescu had been dismissed by King Mihai and replaced by a democratic leadership. At the same time the country switched its allegiance from the Axis to the Allied powers. The Soviet Union (technically at least) invaded an allied democracy...

2. How can you liberate a people from their own ethnic kin (i.e. the Romanian wartime administration of Basarabia)? Can Michigan be 'liberated' from the United States of America?

3. In what sense are you liberating people when the system you impose is every bit as demeaning and illiberal as the one it replaces? How does replacing fascism with communism help anyone?

Sorry, but I don't see oodles of glory here (which is not in any way to discount the valour of those who fought and died on either side). I see instead a totalitarian power taking the opportunity to grab a bit of territory and impose its will on the people who live there.

An event to be noted, and learned from, but not celebrated.

No comments:

Post a Comment